Living Our Values: Young woman's relatives inspire her to follow in their footsteps

Hannah Thomas, 18, of Lexington is the granddaughter of the late Rev. Bob Brown, a member of the Kentucky Civil Rights Hall of Fame.
Hannah Thomas, 18, of Lexington is the granddaughter of the late Rev. Bob Brown, a member of the Kentucky Civil Rights Hall of Fame.

The rich heritage of my family in social justice has equipped me to be a strong advocate in the promotion of the equality of all people.

My religious background and the example set by family have molded my own beliefs and actions.

My grandfather, the Rev. Bob Brown, was active in many areas of social justice and a supporter of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. He was a Baptist pastor in Lexington and the first to bring integration to a white church in Kentucky.

His work in civil rights led him to be inducted into the Kentucky Civil Rights Hall of Fame. I was impressed and proud to be a part of that induction ceremony in 2003.

Although my grandfather died before I was born, I have still learned much from his actions and his call to do what he thought was right even when unpopular or dangerous.

His church, Trinity Baptist, was burned to the ground by arsonists in 1969, thought to be the result of his outspoken stance on civil rights. Fortunately, I have attended that church most of my life and have been taught by that ongoing spirit of acceptance and inclusion. I am proud to be part of a church body that promotes harmony between all people. At Trinity, that includes people of all colors and nationalities, all social classes and those with physical and mental challenges.

From his ministry to the physically and mentally challenged, my grandfather saw the need for safe and affordable housing for these people and built a home in 1975 to meet that need. It is called the Bob Brown House and is home to 14 adults.

I love to visit and volunteer there and am proud to call this place where all people are treated with respect and love an important part of my life.

Also, from this ministry my aunt and uncle began a residential farm for mentally challenged adults in Georgetown in 1984. Quest Farm is home to 18 adults.

I have learned from these places and these people invaluable lessons in acceptance and love for all people. I have seen tangible, life-changing results when one person believed they could make a difference.

My mother and grandmother continue to set a high standard for me to follow in my service and actions that promote friendship and fellowship among all people.

My grandmother, Helen Brown, is 80 but still very active in her ministries at Trinity. She manages three mission houses where people from all countries come to live while they are on sabbatical. I have learned more than I can write from these many people from many places.

My sister and I regularly help my grandma with a weekly Bible study to children at a mobile-home park in Lexington. My grandmother's efforts are tireless in sharing the love of God and helping those in need.

My mom has shown me on a daily basis what it means to love and accept all people. She is a church musician and music teacher. She has a passion for sharing the gift of music with needy populations. I have helped her teach piano classes to those with few opportunities for musical education.

She is also outspoken in her desire to see all people treated justly and fairly. She has demonstrated this conviction on many occasions even when choosing the right path was not the easy way. She left a ministerial position in a church where racism surfaced. She stands against prejudice, both the obvious kind and that which is masked behind other titles and descriptions. I am lucky to learn from her actions as well as her words.

I believe strongly that God calls us to love one another without discrimination based on gender, financial status, race, ability or religious belief. I will do my best to pass this belief and way of life to not only my children but to all that I encounter along my way.